Hero (2002)

September 5, 2004 • Film, Reviews

Director: Zhang Yimou
Producer: William Kong, Zhang Yimou
Writer: Wang Bin, Feng Li, Zhang Yimou
Cinematographer: Christopher Doyle
Fight Choreographer: Ching Siu Tung

Cast: Jet Li, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Donnie Yen, Zhang Ziyi

Country: China
Language: Mandarin
Running Time: 96/120 min

Official Jet Li Site
Taipei Times Jet Li Interview
KFC Interviews Donnie Yen



Using the assassination attempt of the historical figure, Chin Shi Huang Di (The first emperor of China) as a backdrop, this film attempts to explore and develop a better understanding of the Chinese concept of a hero. In a Chinese cultural context, it hopes to explore the preconceptions and misinterpretations of heroism and heroes.


herojet1At the height of China’s Warring States period, the country was divided into seven kingdoms: Qin, Zhao, Han Wei, Yan, Chu and Qi. For years, the separate kingdoms fought ruthlessly for supremacy. As a result, the populace endured decades of death and suffering. The Kingdom of Qin was the most determined of all.

The Qin King was obsessed with conquering all of China and becoming her first Emperor. He had long been the target of assassins throughout the other six states. Of all the would-be killers, none inspired as much fear as the three legendary assassins, Broken Sword, Snow and Sky. To anyone who defeated the three assassins, the King of Qin promised great power, mountains of gold and a private audience with the King himself. But defeating the killers is a near impossible task.

For ten years no one came close to claiming the prize. So when the enigmatic county sheriff, Nameless, came to the palace bearing the legendary weapons of the slain assassins, the King was impatient to hear his story. Sitting in the palace, only ten paces from the King,

Nameless told his extraordinary tale: For ten years, Nameless studied the way of the sword and resolved to challenge the three assassins. Using the secrets of swordsmanship, Nameless defeated the mighty Sky in a furious showdown. Following this initial victory, he destroyed the famed duo of Snow and Broken Sword, this time using a weapon far more devastating than his sword – their extraordinary love for each other. The King hung on every detail of this curious story. But then something most unexpected happened – the King has a different story to tell of how Nameless really came to sit there, face to face with the King!

It appears that everything was not so simple. In the center of the intrigue sits Nameless – a solitary ranger and the King of Qin – the ruler of the Kingdom, with only ten steps between them. Within those ten steps holds an earthshattering tale of love, honor and duty, a story that moves beyond the reaches of history. A story about what it means to be a HERO.

—Courtesy of Miramax Films

*Scenes from Hero
© Miramax/Dimension Films




herojet2When I first heard of this film about a year ago, I thought to myself wow this movie has everything; A Great Cast: Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, and Zhang Ziyi. A Great Director: Zhang Yimou, A Great DP: Chris Doyle, A Great Choreographer: Tony Ching Siu Tung, and a Great Score: Tan Dun. Now a year later and having seen this film all my expectations have been filled and then some.

The movie takes place at the Qin Palace with Nameless (Jet Li) telling the Emperor 4 different stories that eventually lead up to the truth. The four stories are uniquely told by representing each story with 4 colors: Red, Blue, White and Green. Its amazing. The clothes, sets, props, everything is so precise and unique, really detaching every story from one another, its looks so good I’ve never seen anything like this. Ever…

The characters are great, and with so many main characters it is hard to focus on all for the whole length of a movie Zhang Yimou has done this tremendously, giving all the characters sufficient time on screen, with the exception of Donnie Yen who is only in this film for the first 15 minutes. These first 15 minutes just happens to be a fight scene with Jet Li. Yeah forget Once Upon a Time in China 2, this is it folks Jet Vs Donnie, and its raining in the scene, I was thinking after that scene wow can it get any better, the answer was “”Yes””. The lack of Donnie was a bad thing and despite his appearance in some later flashbacks it was just clips from the first 15 minutes, but that aside there are way more positive aspects of this film…

Christopher Doyle has proved himself again to be one of the great Cinematographers of our time, this man is amazing. The color in this film is just jaw dropping. I even missed a few lines of subtitles just gazing and the backgrounds and amazing detail in this film. This aspect of the film again screams Epic and Chris Doyle should win an Oscar for his work, if and when he would ever be nominated for this film.

herojet3The martial arts in this film is also amazing, choreographed by the amazing Tony Ching Siu Tung. Each character has there own unique weapon, and fighting style. With a lot less “”dancing and prancing”” than CTHD these fights are amazing, and since there are 4 stories you get to see most of the fight scenes more than once. Oh and I forgot to mention Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung take on 5000 troops, yeah it’s just amazing.

Tan Dun won an Oscar for his CTHD score, and this one is just a worthy. Even though it sadly lacks Yo Yo Ma, this score is less soft and touchy. It has louder percussion and guys chanting and yelling in the background which kicks ass. You can hear elements of crouching throughout the score, and this proves to be just as good if not slightly better in my view (Maybe because this is a better film). On this print of the film I saw, it didn’t have the Faye Wong track so I can’t comment on that I guess i’ll have to wait for my copy of the soundtrack. So even with no Yo Yo another great score for Tan Dun.

Every aspect of this film combines some of the most talented people in the industry, and this proves to be a powerful driving force behind this Epic film. They all come together to make a very powerful, and emotional film with a powerful message. This film will be compared to Crouching Tiger, as it should I guess but is ultimately better. I love CTHD and without that film we would not get to see Greatness that is Hero. This goes down as the best movie of 2002 for me. Do yourself a favor and see this movie.


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